Sawatdee ka… – RGAT

(For the record, this was meant to post a week ago, but I was sick and the internet was down. So here it is now. It made a lot more sense a week ago. Because now I’ve already progressed a lot more. But I wrote it. So I’m posting it.)

While I’m here, I intend to learn as much Thai as possibly possible. I’m doing okay, for the fifth day. The words are beginning to flow more easily. At first I was just over thinking it: “Sa-wat-dee-kaaaa…” Now it’s much more smooth and natural: “Sawatdee ka….”

I’ve also picked up most of my numbers, which make making purchases that much easier (Like with the beautiful dress and Thai pants that I bought last night on Walking Street.) I know a couple of colors (three, really), but I know blue, which is the most important (si faa). The si at the beginning means color. I know thank you (cop kum ka) and sorry (quator ka) since I say those way too much in English anyway. I know how to say sleepy (nuang non) and hungry (hue kao). I’m also picking up a couple of random things like articles of clothing. (Don’t try to say these at home, ladies and gentlemen. I’m not sure how to type the proper inflection to you.)

I’m not bilingual. The only language I’ve studied in class is Latin. People tease me for that since it’s a dead language, but it’s practical for an English major, okay? I feel like I’ve learned more Thai just by hanging out with my Thai friends who don’t speak much English than I would in a week in a classroom. We trade. I teach them an English word and they teach me Thai.

I don’t think I could be fluent in Thai by the end of two months, but I certainly could learn enough to get around: order my own food, go shopping, and have casual conversations! Other languages I know pieces of are starting to bubble to the surface too. Japanese and Spanish, for instance. Sometimes I’m just tempted to say “arigatou” or “gracias” instead of thank you or “cop kum ka.” I have the strangest dilemmas.

I’m also having a hard time maintaining my English accent. Especially since I’ve been hanging out with my Thai friends, and the other foreign interns. I keep picking up their speaking habits. Actor problems, am I right?

You Haven’t Lived Until… – RGAT

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This Monday and Tuesday, the Zone interns went to stay with our friend Na in her village in the Himalayas. Personally, I don’t think you’ve truly experienced life until you’ve stripped yourself of extraneous comforts and “roughed it.” Camping doesn’t count: it’s more like vacation or sight-seeing. There’s something beautiful about living so naturally. Sure, they have refrigerators and motorcycles and some have trucks, but there are some things that truly are mountain village experiences. For instance, you haven’t lived until:

You’ve woken up to a rooster crow at 4 am. (Go home, rooster, you are drunk.)

You’ve had diarrhea in a squatty potty. (Obviously.)

You’ve shared a meal cross legged on a mat. (Seriously, there’s an amazing community about it. And I only watched from the floor across the room.)

You take herbs for your fever instead of pharmaceuticals. (A little hard to stomach sometimes, but a cool experience.)

You’ve slept on a hard floor. (Not because you opted to, but because there are no beds in the house.)

You go barefoot indoors at any personal residence, school, or church. (It’s so much more comfortable. Why don’t we do this all the time?)

You’ve been terrified by the sound of a gecko in the middle of the night. (The sound, not one dashing out in front of you.)

You’ve slept with the spiders. (At least as big as your palm. Every single time I woke up in the middle of the night, I’d track their progress.)

You’ve walked hand-in-hand with children who don’t understand you. (But they want to be with you anyway.)

(Yes, in fact, I was sick in the village in the mountains, thank you for noticing. It was terrible. I’m on antibiotics. Should be on the mend soon. 🙂 A day in the life, yeah?)

Going without some of our comforts and living off of necessity isn’t the most fun thing in the world. But there is a sort of simple beauty to the life they live there. Na’s house is lovely when you don’t look closely at the holes in the wall. What need is there to be critical? There is grand beauty.

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Grand beauty was seen in the power behind a cascading waterfall and in the labored movements of a tiny beetle. These are the awe-inspiring things. But there is simple beauty that is everywhere, just next to the grand things. These are precious too and noticeable when one takes the time to pause and see them. Visiting Na’s village really struck me. It reminded me what I have and am grateful for, but also what I need to seek out daily: the beauty in simplicity.

Ten (Sip) Impressions and Observations – RGAT

10 (sip). I spent about $10 today total. (For three meals, a snack, and a Walmart run.)

9 (gao). Everyone drives however the heck they want to. (On the left side of the road, mind you.)

8 (paet). On the lake, there are houses, restaurants, and hotels floating on bamboo. (They rise and fall with the water and are reached by boat. But not during a storm. Then you’re stranded until it passes. Because that happened.)

7 (jet). Everything here is so delicious. And spicy. Such variety! (How can anyone have sinus issues when eating Thai food?!)

6 (hok). Breakfast foods are essentially nonexistent. (We just had fresh fruit. Our other options were pork or chicken over rice or noodles.)

5 (hah). Their 7/11 has more interesting purchases than ours. (Like lychee juice? And sticky rice burgers! And mama! Mmmm…)

4 (see). Texas is a very recognizable place to be from. (As well as New York. But Texas has the cowboy stereotype. Everyone assumed I was from New York until told otherwise. That’s a compliment, I guess.)

3 (sahm). It’s awesome to see all the brands I know and love written in Thai. (Picture to follow.)

2 (song). In Thailand, being light skinned is considered more attractive. (My soap is for “White & Firm Skin”.)

1 (nueng). America kind of pales in comparison. (Ba dum bum ch!)

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Renee’s Great Adventure Thailand (Intro and Excitement)

So far, it’s been a lot of waiting. Obviously I didn’t expect the adventure to start immediately, but my excitement isn’t wearing down with exhaustion. Traveling to Thailand is an opportunity of a lifetime for me. In 12 hours, I’ll be in tomorrow and across the sea.

As I’ve said, if you need to contact me, the best way will be through Facebook messaging. I do have internet so I should get back to you fairly promptly. Also, I will post here at the very least once a week! I’ll tweet, Facebook, and tumbl the links, so if you’re curious as to how my adventure is going, you should be able to keep up. I’ll also be journaling and taking lots of pictures!

For those who aren’t aware, I have a two month internship in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Since I was little, I dreamed of going to Thailand. My parents went 26 years ago and I loved flipping through their photo albums. This is my chance to go! I’m a little anxious. I’ve never been so far from home. Ever. And not for so long. But overall, I truly believe this will be an amazing, life-changing experience that I will be immensely blessed by. Prayers and support are always appreciated!

A couple of things I’m already looking forward to:

I’m actually super excited to fly across the ocean. My friend told me it was only exciting for a few minutes, but I am truly fascinated by the ocean. The depth, the beauty, the mystery… Maybe at some point I’ll do a post about it. (Because I have a borderline obsession with water and the color blue). I love imagining the adventures of a world below the surface that I can never quite be a part of but can still appreciate and enjoy. The ocean, guys.

I can’t wait to make friends! I make friends everywhere! I met this lovely Korean woman on the plane to San Fran. Her nickname is Mango because she loves them so much! I may never see her again, but she was great company on the flight. Really, though, I hope to learn a lot about Thai culture through the Thai people by making strong, lasting bonds of friendship with them. That’s what this trip is all about: being a blessing to others and allowing myself to be blessed by others.

I’m also super excited about the cuisine. I get to have Thai food every day. I don’t think I can express how much I appreciate Thai food. And this Thai food will be the legit made-by-Thai-for-Thai food! One of the things I appreciate about the culture already is the treatment of the food as an art, mixing flavors in harmony to satisfy the taste. This trip will be so great.

I imagine I’ll do a “first impressions” sort of post once I arrive. I do have a couple other friends doing blogs while we’re there. If you’re interested, I’ll post the links to them and you can find them. Of course, expect writing posts mingled in as I continue editing SOL. I hope that everyone back home in the States (which I technically haven’t left yet) has a fabulous summer and I’ll see you at the end of July!